Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/589
MENTAL ASPECTS OF ORDINARY DISEASE.
relatives and the overworked paid nurse do not possess the qualities requisite for correct observation of this complex condition, even if they could be induced to make the nature of the delirium the object of their attention. The impressions remaining on my own mind of my thoughts during a pretty sharp and well-sustained delirium, due to a grave attack of scarlatina, are that there were two leading ideas dominant in my mind: the one in relation to my surroundings, the other in relation to my aims and my occupation. The first, though less predominant, were distinctly the more vivid impressions, and they were not only very unpleasant, but their remembrance is ineffaceable. They arose chiefly through the weakened senses, especially the sense of sight. The bedroom I had occupied for years had been rearranged to adapt it to the necessities of a sick-room, and, on waking, the eye did not immediately recognize it. This at once gave a direction to the wandering thoughts, and the leading idea was to get home. The opposition offered to my attempt to escape seemed to me so unjust and improper that violence must be resorted to in order to overcome it, and then followed a wild, delirious struggle, terminating in complete exhaustion. This opposition engendered a strong feeling of personal dislike, blended with suspicion toward those around me, and their kind attentions were interpreted by the reeling brain as unjustifiable interference with natural and intelligible wishes. The remembrance of the feeling of dislike thus originated remains sufficiently strong to occasionally tint the thought yet; for the residua remaining in the cerebral cells exercise an influence on the thought-currents when passing over them.
The other source of disturbance was the influence of the lines of thought which were predominant in the mind ordinarily. These formed the chief subject of my wanderings during the delirious period. At times, the impression that certain patients ought to be seen would become so vivid that I desired to be dressed in order to pay the required visits. Opposition to this, of course, aroused indignation and resentment, and strengthened the suspicions already excited by the restraint exercised to prevent, as I imagined, my returning home.
The remembrance of the condition is still sufficiently vivid to explain the mental attitude of those whose intellect is waning, either from dotage or from a like condition of brain-failure inaugurated by acute disease. Why their relations, who attempt to contradict or to control them—not always with the happiest tact—are objects of dislike and suspicion, is intelligible enough; as also why attendants who humor and cajole them are thereby endowed with a potential, undue influence. The brain, becoming less and less functionally capable, is more and more unequal to the correction of its ill-founded or unjust dislike.
There is nothing monstrous in the mental products; there is just that deviation from the rule that might be anticipated when the func-